May 14, 1984
Charles City to Woodbourne, Va.
I’m reprinting our day-to-day journal entries here from a cross-country bicycle tour my friend Bruce and I took in 1984. Read more journal entries at TransAmerica Tour 1984.
We awoke to roosters crowing Monday morning. They walked down the hill from the house and strutted around our campsite.
Bruce and I climbed out of the tent at 5:45. It took us two hours to get ready, and most of that was just repacking our panniers so that the stuff we’d probably use first was at the top.
After pop tarts and coffee (the water heated on a one-burner Coleman stove), we were back on the road at 8.
We decided to hold back on mileage the first few days. Even though we rode plenty of times that spring, we didn’t train on loaded touring bikes. What they say about the last week of training being the first week on the bicycle tour is true.
We stopped at the Shirley Plantation about 10 miles from our campsite. It was our first roadside attraction on the trip. We took a guided group tour of the old manse, and laughed when a guy commented, “How about that,” after every uninteresting fact recited by the tour guide.
Later we pedaled through the Civil War Seven-Day Battleground. Markers along the road showed the troop movements and there was a visitors center snuggled in the woods. This was McClellan vs. Stonewall Jackson. 5,000 dead. It was considered a draw.
Our decision to stay in a real campground tonight took us way off the route to a KOA in Woodburne. It was nice and grassy, good for tenting, not paved with concrete for Winnebagos. Although we had hot showers and did laundry (laundry on the second day of the trip?), it was unsettling to be so far off the route just to find a place to camp. We’re going to have to plan this better.
Click for interactive map
Headline: May 14, 1984 —
President Reagan’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane
justifies covert action by CIA in such areas as Central America
… (McFarlane later pleaded guilty to 4 counts of lying
to Congress about Iran-Contra… )
It seems like we’ve been on the road for many days, but this is only our second night out. It rained a few drops this afternoon, and that sent us scurrying for our Gortex and the pannier covers Becky made for us.
By the time we got everything in place, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. It felt like those times in grade school when we had the civil defense tests and everybody had to get under the tables in the cafeteria.
We’ve been eating fairly well, although my love affair with Pop Tarts will soon be over, I think. Tonight we had tuna casserole, potatoes, banana, Fig Newtons and coffee with Kahlua. Not bad at all. Last night we had spaghetti, green beans and canned pineapple. For breakfast, canned pears and, you guessed it, Pop Tarts.
Didn’t get to shower last night, just wash-shower, and I slept poorly because of it. I felt itchy and clammy and capable of growing cultures in my crotch. We had to ride all day (about 35 to 40 miles) before we could get to the showers at a KOA in Woodburne.
The lady who ran the place wouldn’t stop talking to us and all we wanted to do was get settled and clean. She was trying to sell us on a KOA value card. For that $4 item, you got a 10 percent discount on fees at all KOA grounds in the country for two years. We said we’d think about it and asked where the showers were. Then she started talking about the map and how we might best get to our destination tomorrow. She was a nice woman, though. She let us use some of her Tide detergent for our laundry.
We had a slight, sometimes irritating cross- and head-wind today, and now, at dark, it is picking up. It’s chilly but snug inside the tent. The bikes and all our gear seem to be meeting the challenge. This is a maiden voyage for much of what we are carrying.
Earlier today we stopped along Route 5 to tour Shirley Plantation, a house, out-buildings and grounds that have been in the same family for nine generations. The house was built in the 1600s, and every wall inside and out is a foot wide and made from bricks. The Carter and Hill families were related to Robert E. Lee, Pocahontas (whom we learned had a son named Thomas–Thomas Pocahontas!) and a host of other important nobility at the time.
The house, full of amazing English silver and Chippendale furniture, is still occupied (in part) by Carter descendants. It escaped injury during the Civil War because the Southern Carter had married a Northern girl of some standing, and the Union troops were told to leave the place alone. Just in case, the family bagged all the silver and hid it in the well until the war was over.
There are markers all over the place commemorating the Civil War and even the Revolutionary War, and the men who died in them. It’s amazing how we romanticize the art of murder.
Listened to a V.A. radio talk show last night and they were all saying bad things about the Russians for pulling out of the Summer Olympics. The sentiment was that we should just say the hell with it and kick their Red asses.
Night is falling and the wind is picking up.
Day 3 — Still a shakedown cruise
About the picture — Bruce eating breakfast at camp with all our great strewn about.